“Politics is ugly”

We are slap bang in the middle of the festive season. A season where masks are worn and everyone wishes to project the nice side of one’s ego. We all get together to rain positive platitudes on everyone, even our enemies; we all get together to show solidarity by aiding this good cause or that other cause.

On the second day of January, all of this is forgotten and we get back to be our normal egoistic selves.

This year, for the second time running, the Christmas period is also being celebrated under the distressing clutches of a worldwide pandemic which is not going to leave us be for quite a long time. In Malta, it is the last Christmas season before a general election. In my opinion, this is the most important general election that the two big, traditional political parties are going to face. And they should know it.

We are not talking about the outcome of this election. That, I believe, is a foregone conclusion. We are talking about what the two parties will do after the election. These decisions might inevitably lead to the total annihilation of one party or the slow implosion of the other party, leading the latter to die with a death of a thousand cuts.

The word in the street has been for many decades that politics is ugly. And that it is a dirty business. This is not a localised Malta syndrome, but the societal take on politics and politicians have been universally negative throughout the various countries and continents. Admittedly, some of this feeling has a lot to do with sour grapes and envy.

This is the most important general election that the two big, traditional political parties are going to face.

In other countries, certainly not Malta yet, this apathy and disconnection between politicians and their peers is manifested in general elections where barely half the population even deign going to the polls. Our neighbouring country Italy has a decades long of history creating so many different political parties that they outnumber the breeding numbers of bunnies and rabbits in that boot-shaped country. Which is admittedly another manifestation of the same syndrome.

Plato famously wrote that ‘one of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.’ The choice of politicians representing their peers in any given jurisdiction goes a long way in demonstrating that the democratic process is alive and healthy. Which brings me to Joseph de Maistre.

Joseph de Maistre (1 April 1753 – 26 February 1821) was a Savoyard lawyer, diplomat, writer, and philosopher. He is accredited to be the author of the phrase ‘the people get the government they deserve.’ Actually the Saying is “Every country has the government it deserves” not “People get the government they deserve” and one more saying from de Maistre is “In a democracy people get the leaders they deserve“.

It means the same thing.

People do not vote for politicians who then become ministers and go on to find developers of multi-million Euro projects of taxpayers’ money from a Yellow Pages directory. Just as the people do not vote for politicians who then become ministers and go on to give out freebie direct orders to quasi-illiterate best friends. People vote for the package that they are presented with. And nowadays, with all the hype and tools available for communications strategy, it is so easy to project persons with questionable morals and deep psychotic issues as the next Mother Theresa.

Do not get me wrong. Shitty politicians duping their electorate have been representing us throughout every decade since Independence and even before that. Let me for a moment continue on the anecdote mentioned above related to the Yellow Pages Directory. It has been alleged that in 1999, a director of BWSC, Soren Barkholt – the same person to whom ex-PN Minister Austin Gatt’s letter for verifications was addressed – approved a $90,000 bribe to a public officer in the Philippines in connection with a project in Subic Bay. Mitsui, the parent company, was also implicated in a series of similar scandals in Russia, Malaysia, Korea, Jordan and Qatar, allegedly paying an estimated €700 million in bribes during 1998.

“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” – Plato

In the 1960s, when the PN were building their Stamperija, G.L. Poulson, the notorious British architect, was commissioned by the PN government to build the Gozo hospital. That contract had international reverberations due to the involvement of Poulson, the same British architect who caused a major political scandal when his use of bribery and connections to senior politicians were disclosed in 1972. Not only in Malta. But also in the UK. One of the figures to be forced out was Conservative Home Secretary Reginald Maudling. Poulson served a jail sentence. Allegedly Poulson’s dubious activities included a hefty donation to the Nationalist Party’s Press Fund in return for favouring his bid to build the new Gozo hospital. These allegations are documented in the book Web of Corruption: The Full Story of John Poulson and T. Dan Smith.

As one can note, sleazy political dealings transcend time and decades and remain omnipresent. Names change but the concept remains the same. There are hundreds of similar episodes attributable to a Nationalist government and its (not all) sleazy politicians. Just as there are hundreds of instances of similar cow dung attributable to a Labour government throughout the decades.

Does that mean that all politicians are corrupt, sleazy, psychotic, narcissistic motherf… in both parties? Of course not. There was, are, and hopefully will always be role model politicians from both camps which are not only a gem for their profession but who are personally responsible with their individual and/or collective initiatives to better the lives of their fellow citizens. And their country.

At this point one might ask what difference it makes since both political parties have sleazy rotten apples which threaten to defecate the whole basket. The answer to this question is easily identifiable. I can quote several instances, including instances which happened this week, wherein a strong and focused leadership created an inevitable aura of resignation for tainted politicians on the Labour side for alleged transgressions. Actual or perceived.

When you look at the other political party to record the same situation, one finds nothing. An eerie silence of no repentant resignations or otherwise. Worse still, shitty sleazy goings-on are desperately inversely portrayed as sanctimonious solely to save the hides of these same shitty politicians so that they remain clinging to power and hence continuing to infect the good apples in the Nationalist Party coterie.

As I said in my article of last week, this is all about leadership. I sincerely hope that both political parties will be in a position to clean their proverbial stables after the next elections and to give the people what they really want: a healthy government AND a healthy opposition.

Is this uniquely a Malta problem? Of course not. The renowned Milton Friedman once stated that ‘If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.’ I rest my case.

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